No One Can Help

The following is a short story I wrote about 6 months ago that I’m particularly proud of. It could still use some work, but I really think this is a great example of the kind of writing I enjoy producing. Please be liberal with comments if you take the time to read the whole thing!

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The stars in the sky are the eyes of the gods, blinking in bored disinterest at the filth of human nature. The sun and the moon, the air and the wind—they’re all detached, without concern, able to carry on in spite of the perils of life on Earth’s faces. Apathetic. Impassive. Indifferent.

It would be a blessing if you could be indifferent as you trudge across the empty soccer field, and clumsily lay yourself down in the grass. You roll over onto your back, meeting the gaze of all those stars. Your mind is the opposite of indifference; you’re plagued by incessant thoughts and memories.

Why are you here?

Why are you doing this?

Why is there no one to help you?

You suck in a deep breath, fill yourself with air and hold it in until your chest is too tight and your lungs panic a little, and you gasp as you let it all back out. All of it, everything—the pain, the guilt, the tears. Everything that you keep inside, that you use like cement to hold yourself together throughout the days—you let it all crumble. Salty dejection flows from your eyes, and your sobs are like the hiccups from a damaged record. You wrap your arms around yourself, perhaps for comfort or for protection, but your cold and sweaty palms clutching your sleeves offer neither.

You cry because you love him; you cry because it’s all your fault; you cry because there’s not a person in the world who can make things better.

On that screen in your mind where you play back your memories like the old home videos you see in movies, you picture him. You picture him talking to you in the car when you were 13 years old, asking your counsel, venting to you. You can feel the warmth of knowing that you’re being a help to him, that you’re a confidant, and even if some of the things he says make you upset, you still listen and you still nod and you still let him talk because he’s talking to you about it, and that’s because you’re special.

Then you see him arguing with your mother. You hear the angry phone calls at 3 in the morning. You feel the tension in the room when you’re all eating dinner. You see the grabbing and the pushing and the squeezing. They’re so immersed in their anger and their problems that they leave you cowering in your room with your cell phone, your sweaty fingers hovering over the buttons 9-1-1 until your mother finally leaves, the way she always does, slamming the door behind her. The only sound left is his bitter sobs, and you when you hear his footsteps resounding down the hall you don’t feel warm anymore; all you feel is scared and sad and powerless.

And then you imagine him later, yelling at you and telling you about your part in causing his problems with your mother and his unhappiness and his stress. You must be telling her things behind his back, you’re lying to him, you love him less. You do things and say things that make your mother yell at him, you bicker with your mother and it makes her frustrated, you forget your chores and it puts your mother in a bad mood. It’s your fault, you need to be aware of how much you mess things up, you need to stop it.

Why can’t you help them stop arguing?

Why are you such a burden on them?

Why is there no one to help you?

You lurch over onto your back again, squint through the tears at the millions of uncaring eyes that seem to blur more as you try to focus on them. You are the cause of every problem in your life, and every bad thing that has ever happened was either something you wanted, or something you deserved.

You wanted to make him happy, didn’t you? You knew what was happening that first time he came into your room, didn’t you? You wanted to make him stop but you always chickened out, didn’t you? Every time they argued, your mother left once things became too much. And every time she left, it was just you and him.

Why were you always too petrified to do something?

Why couldn’t you make the right choice?

Why is there no one to help you?

Hours seem to go by as you cry more than you ever knew you could. The world is warping around you, expanding and compressing and growing and shrinking, distancing itself from you—you’re all alone in the universe—then pulling in so tight that all the trees and the moon and the staring stars feel like they’re going to collapse on you.

Fast forward, so many years since the first time it happened. Your first and only boyfriend, your sweet Ian. You don’t tell anyone about him, and things are charming. You’re positively glowing with love that you didn’t even know you had to give, and he’s in love with you too, and it feels better than anything, ever. And the best part is, Ian won’t touch you. He never touches you, and he won’t ask why; he just holds your hand and cups your shoulder and strokes your hair. You’re so incredibly relieved. You don’t want Ian to be like everyone else, to treat your body the way others have, but you know if he ever wanted to touch you that you wouldn’t say no. Can you say no? Do you know how to say no? Do you want to say no, ever?

Then comes the day in the summertime that Ian notices bruises. Purple finger blotches that you forgot you had, ones that are easily hidden by clothing but not so well by bathing suits in the pool. Ian’s distressed face, his frantic questions, and his anger once the truth finally comes out is met with your shame, your pleading, your guilt at what you’d done. You ask him dozens of times—don’t tell, don’t hate him, don’t leave me, please. And Ian doesn’t, because Ian never does anything you don’t want him to. Ian only ever loves you.

But all the love in the world doesn’t matter when your parents find out about Ian. They turn everything into some scheme of betrayal against them, and shove so much guilt down your throat that you can’t even swallow when you try to look them in the eye. You lied, you’re too young, you told them you were just friends, how could you? And now Ian is gone, so gone, and if you ever see him again or talk to him again or love him again he’ll be even more gone. In a moment of grief, you honor the only thing Ian ever begged you to do—you write a letter to your mother, and you leave it in her purse before you go to school one morning. You tell her.

Why did you tell her?

Why did you condemn him?

Why is there no one to help you?

You’ve cried so much that your eyes are sore and your head is throbbing. Every breath whistles through your clenched throat in a rhythmic wheeze, and your chest is so heavy it feels like everything you’ve ever done wrong is on top of it. You’re shaking, but you’re not cold there on the grass; your body quakes as if the tremors reflect the collapse of your life, playing on the screen in your head.

Your mother picked you up early from school the day you told her, and for some reason you were surprised. She didn’t notice your letter until she was at work, and said she cried in the office when she read it. She hugged you there in the car, held you for a long time like the longer you were in her arms, the less horrible the situation would be. As her tears seeped through your shirt, you wanted to find a way to comfort her but you couldn’t; you felt guilty for ever having told her, and for waiting so long to tell her at the same time.

Everything was bad before, but got so much worse. Your mother takes you to the police station, you file a report, you tell the story to so many men and women, so many times. Charges are being brought against him. This only makes you feel even more anxious and horrible—spreading these terrible details about him to all these people, making him sound like some kind of monster when in reality so much of what happened is your own fault. Then he refuses family therapy, refuses to admit he’d done anything wrong, shouts and curses at you, so your mother kicks out of the house. The locks are changed, and she tries to comfort you by saying they were considering a separation anyway. It’s not your fault, she tells you.

You know it is.

You start seeing a psychiatrist, and you’re prescribed medication to try to make things easier to bear, but nothing helps. You barely speak to the shrink, and the anxiety pills just make you feel dead. A break from school to help you get control of the panic attacks and the tears—things that you once had control over, before everything went to hell. You hear about rumors being spread throughout the 9th grade, whispers saying you have cancer or your father died or you’re crazy or all three. You can’t bring yourself to care about them, though; you’re so ensnared in the guilt and misery and dirty feelings that came with your confession that nothing else really matters anymore.

Why did everything feel worse once you told?

Why wouldn’t the nightmares go away?

Why is there no one to help you?

You feel too weak to move, to scratch at the itch on your leg from the grass, to even sniff at the mucusy trail dripping from your nose. Your eyes are closed, you’re not sure how long they’ve been closed. How are you supposed to know how long things are? Why do the sounds you hear feel so confusing? You realize this must be what it feels like, to have this happen to you, so you just lie there. You let more of your life enact its way through your mind as you lay in the grass and try not to move, even though the world is spinning.

You remember that afternoon when you see his car across the parking lot after school. You’ve only been back in class for a few days, because according to the shrink you’re “stable.” Oh, you should have ignored that car. Your mother warned you, she said to call her right away if he ever turned up unexpectedly. But you have to say sorry, you have to explain, you have to tell him you love him and that you care and that nobody should say anything because you’re sorry and it’s all your fault because you never should have told anyone.

Instead, he says things to you. You stand outside his car window as he beats and violates you one last time with his words. You’ve ruined my life, you’re a fucking whore, I’m done with you. And you just take it, because that’s all you’re good for isn’t it? You watch him drive away, and you know that you drove him away. You’ve ruined everything, and there’s no coming back from it and there’s no making anything better.

Why do people leave you?

Why do you drive them away?

Why is there no one to help you?

It doesn’t make sense to think anymore because everything in your head is swaying and changing and stopping and starting. Your eyes close—weren’t your eyes closed before? When did you open them?—and you’re just so, so sleepy. The bed holds you—or is it the grass? The grass is your bed, the grass loves you, you can’t push the grass away because the grass and the apathetic stars will always, always be there.

The bottle of Valium you took before walking to the park has been slowly making its way through you, and now it’s about to do its job. There is no one to help you.

Thank God.

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